Everyone else in the house is asleep. After a fine dinner out with my family I am alone in the basement, watching The Amazing Spider-man on the 60” Plasma HDTV I bought myself for my 40
I turned 40 years old today, Nov. 2.
My editors at Comics and Gaming Magazine don’t give me enough space here to explain everything going on in my head as I turn this middle-aged milestone (consider yourself lucky). If I were to distill it into one thought that is appropriate for this space, it would be this: Every generation gets the Spider-man they deserve.
The hero – my all-time favorite – celebrated 50 years of web slinging this year. He has ten years on me, but he will outlive all of us. When I discovered him I was five years old, the comic book was 15 years old. Since the only Spidey timelines I enjoy are the ones with him as a teenager, this is fitting.
Peter Parker will always be a high school student to me. He will always work for the Daily Bugle. Gwen Stacey and Uncle Ben will always be dead. And Flash Thompson will always be an asshole.
That is the Spidey of my youth. I came to know him before he was a movie star and I choose to ignore the pathetic live action show that ran on American TV in the late 70s. My Spidey is the hero of the late 60s cartoon I caught in reruns, the one with the iconic theme song and trippy scenery. My Spidey swings a web, any size. He catches thieves, just like flies.
Here comes the Spider-man.
As soon as I learned to read all I wanted to do was read Spidey comics. I read on as he battled the Hobgoblin, swung through The Secret Wars, fought the alien costume that would become Venom, and then (sadly) watched as he was pulled through The Clone Saga by a Marvel Comics editorial staff that had lost its way.
Just as things in my life ramped up – job, bills, and bars – I watched as a new generation took over the hero. The Spidey cartoon in the mid-90s was flashy, well drawn and featured the entire heavy hitting bad guys from my youth. Spidey was still a lovable loser, but his edge was being sharpened just a little. After years of legal wrangling word began to spread on the Internet of a Spider-man movie. I’d dreamed of this since I first saw the blue and red costume. I swore that if Hollywood ruined my favorite hero I would walk into the studio with dynamite strapped to my chest and scream “YOU DID THIS TO ME!” before lighting the fuse in protest.
To my delight, the movie was excellent. Sam Raimi and I grew up on the same Spider-man. He topped that film with its superior sequel, and I finally got to see Doc Ock slamming through Manhattan on his mechanical arms.
I will say nothing of the third film out of respect for what I assume were the best intentions.
But then there was a cartoon on MTV that had a lot of the Spidey heart with a little more edge. The Ultimate Spider-man comics – while excellent – took the character in directions I never imagined; younger, more relevant directions. Being a newspaper photographer isn’t that cool anymore. And now this generation has a new movie franchise to soak up while the one that nailed my generation’s Spidey is only a decade old.
I liked the new movie. Garfield and Stone are perfect in their roles. Everyone was well cast and performed at the highest levels. I’m not much of a Lizard fan and the movie didn’t do anything to change my mind. I was furious when I heard there would be no J. Jonah Jameson, but the memory of J.K. Simmons’ masterful turn as the putrid publisher is enough to carry me along.
And the practical web shooters? Perfect.
So, to Generation Y or Z or whatever the hell they’re calling you in the media, I wish you all the best as you follow the wall crawler into the future. For my part, I will raise my kids on the media I devoured at their age – 60s cartoons and early 80s comics. By the time they’re old enough to read this, their generation will be taking Spidey in another direction.
But he will always be a kid from Queens with a good heart and a troubled mind. I think every generation can relate to that.